We know that nutrition is an important part of triathlon racing but what not everyone knows is that change in our daily nutrition can help immensely the performance in long distance races like Ironman.
When racing an Ironman or even a 70.3 race, we can be burning anywhere between 500-700kcals/hour. So, in theory, we try to replenish those calories with glycogen (gels, drinks, bars, etc.) because we know we do not have enough glycogen in the body to match that calorie expenditure.
The problem is that it's really hard, almost impossible, to consume that much calorie during exercise, especially a race. When we try to consume that much, we almost always end up with an upset stomach, forcing us to walk or even quit the race.
To avoid stomach distress, most athletes consume less calories and end up experiencing what we called "bonking" or slow down the pace significantly.
So what's the answer???
The answer is to make your body more efficient using fat (pretty much unlimited) as a source of energy and not rely on glycogen (limited).
Some of you have been doing one thing already which is to do your long training (swim, bike and run) EASY. If you think you are being smart and/or "tough" because you can go harder on your long bike or run, you are actually being stupid because you are reinforcing, to your body, to use glycogen as source of energy.
The second thing, that most are not doing yet, is to train your body, through nutrition, to use more fat rather than glycogen. To do that you need to fast and use some of the tricks I list below:
The adaptation to get benefits from this nutrition plan will take a few weeks and also needs to be done slowly so here are the first steps:
1 - Cut the snacks !
From now on only eat 3 meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Snacks will actually slow your body’s ability to use fat as a source of energy because every time you eat, you produce insulin that blocks your body from using fat as fuel.
2 - Train in the morning fasted
This is THE most important part of this plan because here you will teach your body to use fat as fuel and in result , it will improve your aerobic capacity.
So wake up in the morning , drink a glass of water with a bit of Himalayan pink salt , a cup of black coffee (no sugar , milk or any other thing that has calories ) and go train. During training only water and salt. You can easily train faster for up to 3 hours when adapted !
3 - Eat according to the type of training you’re doing
For example if you’re doing a long endurance swim in the morning (fasted) after the workout , your breakfast will be ONLY protein and fat.
So for example, I have one or two eggs , a little piece of cheese, half avocado and one tomato . This gets me pretty full and I weigh 180lbs so you can adjust accordingly but the goal is NOT to feel hungry after.
If your training has intensity like intervals on swim, bike or run then you will add carbohydrates, if possible good quality (not refined carbs) like sweet potatoes, brown rice , quinoa, etc.
4 - Have your last meal of the day at least 3 hours before you go to sleep
This is also very important to improve digestion and to make sure you sleep with an empty stomach (better sleep quality ) . The ideal is 4 hours but if you have to eat later than that , avoid any sugar or refined carbs and red meat, best is fish or chicken and cooked veggies.
This is the first step to take and can be improved from here.
I believe if you train your body to use more fat as fuel , it will reduce the need of taking too many calories during long races that are the main reason for stomach distress. But also you will have more energy because even when we supplement with carbs , we never get enough calories to compensate for what we burn. Not the case with fat because it’s basically an endless source and no need to replenish like glycogen does.
Have a great week!